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Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Wednesday, 9 September 2009 17:14 UK

Africa MPs cheer Lockerbie bomber

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi in hospital, 09/09
Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi appeared frail as he was greeted by MPs

Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi has made his first public appearance since receiving a hero's welcome on his return to Libya.

Megrahi, looking frail in a wheelchair, received a standing ovation from a group of African MPs in the hospital where he is receiving care for cancer.

But after five minutes he began to cough and signalled he wanted to leave.

The Scottish authorities freed Megrahi last month on compassionate grounds because he is terminally ill.

He is the only person to be convicted of the blowing up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in December 1988, killing 270 people.

His release and subsequent welcome in Libya caused a political storm in the UK.

Opposition groups have accused the British government of tying his release to a trade deal.

Carefully orchestrated

The BBC's Rana Jawad, in Tripoli, says a nurse wheeled Megrahi to a small stage in the lecture hall at the city's medical centre.

He appeared to be frail, wearing a surgeon's mask that covered most of his face and a colourful, sequined traditional skullcap, she says.

I found him very courageous despite his health condition
Idriss Ndele Moussa
African Union parliament speaker

He remained silent in his wheelchair as he was greeted by about 40 African MPs who are in the country to mark the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the African Union.

After he started coughing, he was immediately wheeled off the stage.

Our reporter says it seemed a carefully orchestrated event intended to send a signal to the Scottish, British and US governments.

Speaker of the African Union (AU) parliament Idriss Ndele Moussa, who is from Chad, told reporters: "I congratulated him for his return home and I found him very courageous despite his health condition."

A Libyan member of the AU parliament, Mohamed Jibril, compared the welcome Megrahi received with that of a group of Bulgarian nurses who were convicted of infecting babies with HIV in Libya, but were pardoned in Europe.

"The visit by the African parliament to Mr Megrahi is no different from the reception given to the Bulgarian nurses by the European Parliament," he said.


Correction 24 September 2009: Remarks about the Megrahi case that were wrongly attributed to Idriss Ndele Moussa in an earlier version of this story have been removed. They were taken from a news agency report.



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